What Are The Causes Of Dam Failures?

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Animal Burrows
Animal Burrows
Damage Caused by Embankment Overtopping
Damage Caused by Embankment Overtopping
Inadequate Spillway Capacity
Inadequate Spillway Capacity
Weir Boards Blocking Spillway/Limiting Freeboard
Weir Boards Blocking Spillway/Limiting Freeboard
Undermining of Spillway Toe
Undermining of Spillway Toe
Progressive Piping Problem
Progressive Piping Problem
Progressive Piping Problem
Progressive Piping Problem
Seepage from an Embankment
Seepage from an Embankment
Leakage Around Outlet Pipe
Leakage Around Outlet Pipe
Internal Erosion Along Pipes
Internal Erosion Along Pipes
Unstable Slopes
Unstable Slopes
Spillway Scour
Spillway Scour
Poor Maintenance
Poor Maintenance
Poor Design/Poor Maintenance
Poor Design/Poor Maintenance
Sinkhole
Sinkhole
Uprooted Trees on Dams
Uprooted Trees on Dams
Spalled Concrete
Spalled Concrete

 

Dam failures are most likely to happen for one of five reasons:

1. Overtopping caused by water spilling over the top of a dam. Overtopping of a dam is often a precursor of dam failure. National statistics show that overtopping due to inadequate spillway design, debris blockage of spillways, or settlement of the dam crest account for approximately 34% of all U.S. dam failures. (Video Example)

2. Foundation Defects and Slope Instability Foundation defects, including settlement and slope instability, cause about 30% of all dam failures. (Video Example)

3. Cracking caused by movements like the natural settling of a dam. 

4. Inadequate maintenance and upkeep.

5. Piping is when seepage through a dam is not properly filtered and soil particles continue to progress and form sink holes in the dam. [See an animation of a piping failure.] Another 20% of U.S. dam failures have been caused by piping (internal erosion caused by seepage). Seepage often occurs around hydraulic structures, such as pipes and spillways; through animal burrows; around roots of woody vegetation; and through cracks in dams, dam appurtenances, and dam foundations. (Video Example)

 

Dam Failure Incidents 2010-2015

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Make sure to visit the 'Dam Failures' section under 'Awareness Center' to learn more! Click Here

For more specific information, including case studies and lessons learned, visit DamFailures.org

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